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Updated: August 25th, 2011 6:46pm
Notebook: Joe Webb to work ahead of Christian Ponder in push for No. 2

Notebook: Joe Webb to work ahead of Christian Ponder in push for No. 2

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Saturday's exhibition against Dallas will give Donovan McNabb and the Minnesota Vikings' starting offense an extended opportunity to work out the kinks before the regular season.

It may be their last opportunity in a game, too, if all goes according to plan.

Coach Leslie Frazier strongly suggested on Thursday that McNabb and other veterans will sit out the preseason finale on Sept. 1 against Houston, provided "we can get done what we need to get done from a work standpoint" against the Cowboys.

"We have some key decisions we have to make a certain positions," Frazier said. "This game -- and I told our team this (Thursday) morning -- will play a major role in determining where people are going to fit on our squad."

That includes backup quarterbacks Joe Webb and rookie Christian Ponder, whose competition appears too close to call 2½ weeks before the season opener.

Webb will take the second-team snaps on Saturday -- probably beginning at halftime or early in the third quarter, depending on when McNabb departs. Ponder, the No. 12 overall draft pick, presumably will get some playing time in the fourth quarter.

If McNabb sits in the finale, Webb or Ponder would start and both would play extensively as coaches try to sort out who will be Nos. 2 and 3 on Sept. 11 at San Diego. It's a key distinction, not only because of who would take over if McNabb goes down, but who gets to take turns running the Vikings' offense in practice instead of the scout team.

There's also the question of how being No. 2 would impact some of the packages the Vikings have toyed with for Webb since the start of training camp -- receiver, Wildcat quarterback or otherwise -- but Frazier said the roles wouldn't necessarily be mutually exclusive.

"It's not the most ideal," Frazier said. "If he becomes our clear-cut number two, then you may not want to risk it as much. But we'll see."

Griffin's recovery

Right guard Anthony Herrera isn't the only Vikings veteran with something to prove on Saturday as he recovers from knee reconstruction.

Cornerback Cedric Griffin, who blew out one knee in January 2010 and the other less than nine months later, has fared well in practice but played only five snaps so far in the preseason.

"We have to see a little more," Frazier said. "He's moving around real well in practice. He hasn't had any setbacks, been all positive going forward, but he needs to see more game action. And we're going to give him more reps in this game Saturday night and see how he performs."

Ideally, the Vikings would use Griffin and Chris Cook as their outside corners when Antoine Winfield moves inside in the nickel defense. They had that combination for all of about seven quarters last season, until Griffin's right knee gave out on a tackle in the fourth quarter of an Oct. 11 loss to the New York Jets.

"I looked out there one time and I saw how we matched up with their receivers and said, `This is what we want. This is the ideal situation,'" Frazier said. "That was probably the last time we had them together. So, hopefully, lining them up for this ballgame and for the regular season will be good for our football team."

Health watch

Backup linebacker Heath Farwell will miss Saturday's game after an apparent setback with his injured hamstring.

Farwell, 29, said out last week's at exhibition at Seattle with the same injury. He returned to practice on Monday but wasn't on the field on Thursday, and Frazier confirmed he won't play against Dallas.

The Vikings' linebackers are beat up -- Jasper Brinkley (hip flexor) also will miss Saturday's game, while Kenny Onatolu (stress fracture in foot) just returned to practice this week -- but it's worth wondering if the injury could put Farwell's roster spot in jeopardy. The special-teams ace is due $1.75 million in base salary this season.

Also sitting out Saturday will be: halfback Toby Gerhart (ankle/Achilles), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), defensive tackle Kevin Williams (foot), cornerback Asher Allen (toe) and linebacker Ross Homan (concussion) and Mark Washington (shoulder).

Gerhart and Shiancoe tested their injuries during warm-ups before transitioning to a rehabilitation workout.

Quick hits

• Saturday's game will be the last for at least 10 players on the Vikings roster. Teams must reduce rosters from 90 players to 80 by Tuesday. The final roster reduction to 53 players is on Sept. 3.

• The Vikings promoted Jeff Anderson from assistant director of public affairs to director of corporate communications. Anderson, who joined the team as a public relations intern in 2003, has worked closely with team vice president Lester Bagley on the Vikings' stadium push.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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